I woke to the rhythmic patter of a woodpecker in the pines above my head. The morning was chill, 38 degrees before the sun broke through the trees, and windy. Further along the trail, I later found out, 35 mile per hour wind gusts were buffeting hikers. I cared little, snug in my sleeping bag and secure in the knowledge that there would be no hiking for me today.
I rousted myself eventually, taking my time packing, making phone calls, generally in no rush. The stores in Mt. laguna would not open until 8am, and my first resupply shipment wouldn’t be available until noon, when the post office opened. In short, I had nothing but time.
I busied myself with sorting my gear into essential and nonessential piles. In addition to getting new supplies, I’d decided, I would also be purging my pack of anything too heavy or useless. If I were to continue walking, I decided, it would be at the expense of some of the items I’d been too foolish to leave at home.
First in the pile was my tripod. I’d yet to use it, and at 3 lbs, it was a natural choice. My sound gear followed, and any extra changes of clothes I could spare. I would be continuing with the clothes on my back. My camera case, a bulky saddlebag from Think Tank, and my go pro, an unnecessary energy hog, all went in the pile. Lastly my Biolite stove and pot at nearly 4 lbs. I felt like I was starting over again.
No-Trace and Unbreakable passed me on their way out of camp, saying they planned to stop at the store for the day and wait for their friend, who was some considerable distance behind. They invited me to join them and I gladly accepted.
Packing my gear up again, the weight of it sinking my spirits momentarily, I trundled off toward town. On the way I saw Big Fish and Firecracker, and pointed them in the right direction to the store. They had met on the Appalachian Trail, they told me, and with no kids and the chance to try their hands at the PCT, they had jumped at the opportunity.
The town of Mt. Laguna, if it can be considered as such, consisted of a post office and general store, an outdoor supply store, and a restaurant, of which I sadly did not partake.
I met up with No-Trace and Unbreakable at the store, and stepped inside immediately to buy breakfast, a chicken salad sandwich (bacon ranch) and a jug of apple cider from the nearby town of Julian. I sat on the porch of the store with half a dozen other hikers, interviewing a few, but just generally immersing myself in the PCT community.
One of the things I’d most looked forward to on the trail was the sense of community and togetherness that hiking such long distances engendered. Here, on the porch of the Mt. Laguna store, we traded stories of how we came to the trail, listened to No-Trace dispense his learned wisdom, ate, drank, spent money, and tended to minor injuries (in my case a nasty bit of chafing caused by my decision to hike sans undergarments.). It was idyllic, it was exactly what I needed.
The post office opened at noon, and I hastily started putting my pack together. New food, underwear (thank god), and glasses, including my prescription Oakleys that I’d been sorely missing, all went into my bag. Into a large box went 20 pounds of gear I would be sending home. I was shocked at the weight of it, but happy to see it off my back. In its place went extra water for the desert ahead, peanut butter, cheese, tortillas, and Gatorade. I was changing on the fly, adapting to my circumstances, I was quite proud of myself.
The other hikers, nearly 20 all told now, all laughed when I told them how much weight I had shipped away. No-Trace smiled and said he’d done the same thing his first try. When I stepped away to buy a new stove, I left my lightened bag, and they watched it dutifully, sensing my trauma at picking it up again.
Once I was all set, I decided to move o. It was only 3:30 or so, and by taking the road I could jump ahead almost 9 trail miles by the time I had to stop.
I hiked for a ways until I saw the craggy ridge of Granite Peak and rejoined the trail, selecting a spot along the cliff to pitch my tent. I had service, happily, and watched the new Star Wars trailer beneath a large oak tree. I cried, I couldn’t help myself. It was a good day.
As I made camp I noticed that somewhere on the cliff face below me were several peregrine falcon nests. The residents were none too pleased with my intrusion and they circled and dove at me angrily in an amazing spectacle I will always treasure. I watched the sunset and ate simply, and went to sleep excited, for the first time, for what tomorrow would bring.